Airline travel was a lot different 15 years ago. With changes such as à la carte pricing models, “slimline” economy seats and the implementation of baggage fees, traveling by plane can sometimes be more of a hassle than a luxury. While airlines such as Southwest remain more consumer friendly, most of these changes are negative for the traveler. Below are some tips that will hopefully help make your travel more pleasant.
Before the Airport
- Get TSA PreCheck: Breeze your way through security with TSA PreCheck®. PreCheck® is a program offered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which allows trusted individuals to move through security checkpoints faster and more efficiently. The cost is $85 for a 5-year membership, but credit cards such as the American Express Platinum offer it as a benefit. To apply for this card, or any others, we would appreciate it if you use our referral links for Travel Rewards Credit Cards.
- Get Lounge Access: Many cards such as the Amex Platinum, United MileagePlus Club and Citi AAdvantage Executive offer lounge access to their cardmembers. Lounges are not only a great place to grab a quick bite or have a drink, but also a great place to hang out between longer layovers. The American Express Centurion Lounges are considered the best lounges around as they offer food and drink options that can’t be beat and premium amenities such as spas, salons and wine tasting.
- Book at The Right Time: Recent studies show that around 60 days before takeoff is when tickets are the cheapest. If that sounds stressful to you, book your flight far in advance. While booking last minute is a risk, it can definitely pay off. Give Google Flights a try next time you look for flights.
- Check Back For Better Seats: Check for seat availability 2-3 days before your flight. Sometimes you will find that more seats are open at this time because of upgrades and flight changes. Doing so can lead to a better seat without paying the “upgrade your seat” price. SeatGuru is a great resource for learning about seat pitch, width, and other seat inconveniences.
- Pack Less: Baggage fees can be costly. To save money, pack less and travel with a carry-on. I used to overpack, but using this strategy now saves me money and time at the airport. Keep in mind that most co-branded credit cards offered by the airlines allow you to check your first bag for free.
At the Airport
- Relax During Boarding: Unless you are flying on a carrier such as Southwest, don’t rush to hop in line and board your flight as soon as possible. Your seat is saved and you should be able to find room for your carry-on bag. When you can, sit near the front of the aircraft as this will help minimize your time getting off of the plane. Many cards offer Priority Boarding as a benefit of having the card so that helps you board before general boarding even if you don’t have elite status.
- Stay Comfortable: The temperature on airplanes varies, so pack a light sweater or jacket in your carry-on. Consider bringing a book, magazine or tablet to help pass time. On red-eye flights, eye masks make it much easier to fall asleep. If you are going to sleep, make sure your seat belt is visible to avoid being disturbed by flight attendants checking if you are buckled during turbulence.
- Stay Germ-Free: Areas such as the tray table and seat belts are some of the dirtiest spots on the plane. Combat this by carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. Nothing is worse than being sick during your vacation or work trip. Here’s a great option for travel-size packages of anti-bacterial wipes.
- Know Where Your Next Gate Is: Make sure you know if you have to change terminals before your next flight after a layover. Even if you are flying the same airline, you might have to change terminals. Forgetting to do this could lead to a missed flight. I use the app TripIt Pro to notify me of my gate and if there are any gate changes.
- Layovers: If your layover is rather long, you can always leave the airport and come back. With an 8 hour layover at LAX you could take a bus ride to Santa Monica, travel to the City Center or go to the nearby In-N-Out Burger. Many cities have nearby attractions which can turn a long layover into a nice sightseeing opportunity.
The advice listed above is part of my airline travel checklist. While this list is not exhaustive, these tips and the upcoming suggestions in Part 2 of the series can help you save time & money and allow you to relax. Airline travel doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. I hope this advice helps make your travel experiences more enjoyable!